Also, despite proponents advocating that the bifurcated farm bill is the same as the one voted down in June, Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern argued that the new bill was “dramatically” different. The bill “has several major changes that we know about. I say ‘know about’ because we really don’t know what’s in this bill and we don’t know how some of the changes will affect long-term farm policy.

“Something new in the bill is the repeal of the 1949 permanent law. What does that mean? What impact will that language have on future farm policy? Who knows? There hasn’t been a single hearing on this language nor a mark-up – nothing, nothing.

“This bill also eliminates the entire Nutrition Title, which includes more than just food stamps. It includes monies for food banks, emergency food assistance and food for senior citizens. The whole title is gone.”

McGovern stuck the knife in deeper. “My question is: what were the right-wingers in the Republican conference promised in order to change their votes from no to yes? What is the backroom deal they’ve negotiated with the Republican leadership? How deep a cut to the SNAP program were they promised?”

While McGovern’s questions were never answered, Sessions provided a timeline on the quick move to bring the new bill to the floor. “Last night (July 10), Lucas approached the (Rules Committee) and said he would like for us to consider this bill (only) on farm portions. He indicated he would follow up – had every intent to follow up – with a companion part, which would be the SNAP portion.”

Not surprisingly, Democrats weren’t sold. Peterson – whose opposition to the farm bill tactic was backed by a 530-member coalition of agriculture interests (see here) -- warned that splitting the bill “jeopardizes the chances of it ever becoming law. And repealing permanent law all but ensures that we will never write a farm bill again. … If you want to ensure Congress never considers another farm bill and the farm programs as written in this bill remain forever, then vote for this bill.

“In every farm bill, there are things some people like and things some people don't. The beauty of the 1938 and 1949 permanent laws is that it forces both groups to work together on a new farm bill, because no one really wants to go back to the old commodity programs.”

Peterson continued, “I don’t see a clear path forward from here. There has been no assurance from the Republican leadership that passing this bill will allow us to begin to conference with the Senate in a timely manner. In fact, the Republican leadership has told agricultural groups to support this bill as the way to go to conference, while also telling Republican members, fearful of the wrath of conservative groups' opposition, that there will be no conference, at least not without first getting concessions from the Senate; concessions the Senate will never agree to.”

An annoyed chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee awaits the House farm bill in conference. Shortly after the “extremely flawed” bill’s passage, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow derided the legislation as “an insult to rural America, which is why it’s strongly opposed by more than 500 farm, food and conservation groups.”

Farm groups were mostly luke-warm to the House farm bill.

“Today’s strictly partisan vote to pass the farm bill apart from the nutrition title undermines the long-time coalition of support for a unified, comprehensive farm bill which has historically been written on a bipartisan basis,” said Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union president.“NFU will continue to do all it can to get a reasonable bill through the conference process. Any final legislation must continue existing permanent law provisions and include meaningful safety net protections for both family farmers facing difficult times and the food insecure.”

The American Soybean Association “is relieved that we will finally see a conference on the farm bill,” said Danny Murphy, ASA president and soybean farmer from Canton, Miss. “However today's approval by the House on a partial bill will mean nothing if we can't get a bill back from conference that both chambers will pass. In that sense, there is still much work to be done.

“ASA is opposed to the replacement of permanent law by whatever legislation may result from this process. If only Title 1 (the Commodity Title) of a new farm bill is made permanent, other titles -- including conservation, research, energy and trade -- would risk not being reauthorized when the bill expires after five years, since Title 1 would remain in place. Also, we are very concerned that Title 1 of a new bill could include provisions that would distort plantings and production in years of low prices, and that it would be extremely difficult to change these provisions if the legislation were made permanent.”

Randy Veach, president of Arkansas Farm Bureau, said, “We are disappointed in House leadership for choosing to split the bill and repealing the permanent law status of the farm bill, which creates the possibility that we will never write a farm bill again.

“The decision by House leadership to pursue that path put members of the Arkansas delegation in a very difficult situation.

“We still have a long way to go to get to passage of a five-year farm bill. The challenge will be in conferencing the vastly different proposals from the Senate and the House.

A statement from the Agricultural Council of Arkansas said the organization “was glad to see the House of Representatives make progress on the farm bill. While we were disappointed that the House was unable to pass the Committee-passed farm bill (H.R. 1947), we are pleased that the House was able to advance the non-nutrition titles of that farm bill, which will allow for the House and Senate to move to conference with the Senate. We hope the House and Senate will work together to provide a conference report that will contribute to deficit reduction, offer sufficient safety nets for farmers and low income Americans, and provide the certainty of a five-year law.”